WASHINGTON, July 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As an international, child-focused Christian relief and development organization working on the ground in Gaza, World Vision United States is deeply distressed by the ongoing violence, soaring death toll, and destruction to civilian infrastructure resulting from the ongoing hostilities between Hamas and Israel. World Vision calls on the government of Israel and armed groups in Gaza to immediately cease all hostilities, especially the targeting of children and other civilians.
World Vision is serving some 90,000 people in Gaza, including more than 7,000 children registered in its programs.
All of the children in World Vision's Northern Gaza Area Development Program have been displaced from their homes and are seeking sanctuary in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools and other shelters. Fifty percent of the South Gaza Area Development Program, supported by World Vision US, have evacuated their homes as well. On July 23, the United Nations stated that during the previous two days, one child had been killed in Gaza every hour.
"While we have suspended our operations in Gaza," said Alex Snary, National Director of World Vision's work in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, "we continue to provide psychosocial support for children who have been injured, lost a family member or lost their homes. We are trying to do that in the most difficult situation, reaching out to children in the hospitals, in their homes and even in UNRWA schools where they are taking shelter with their families."
"We have also managed to provide much needed medical supplies for a private hospital in north Gaza" he added.
Children in Gaza have shared how they have benefited from World Vision's programs:
- "I sat with a group of children, each one talked about their situation and how he/she left their home and moved to a UNRWA school. After that, all of us children blew balloons, and I felt that I threw all of my problems inside this balloon, and after that I relaxed." Mohammed, 7-yr-old boy
- "I have severe anxiety during the night because I know that the bombs increase during this period. But the facilitators told my parents to play with us during the night and encouraged us to sing with each other. I feel more comfortable now." Nour, 14-yr-old girl
Tragically, World Vision has lost children involved in our programs. Mustafa, a 9-year-old boy from Shaboura camp, was killed when an Israeli jet bombed their three story family home on July 21. Eight of his family members were also killed, with remaining family members confirming they received no warnings prior to the attack. He is one of more than 185 Gazan children killed during the current operation.
Following World Vision's recent statements condemning attacks targeting children, and calling for an end to escalating violence, we support the efforts of Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Government to facilitate an immediate and lasting ceasefire. We commend Secretary Kerry's July 22 statement in Cairo:"Just reaching a ceasefire, clearly, is not enough. It is imperative that there be a serious engagement, discussion, negotiation, regarding the underlying issues and addressing all of the concerns that have brought us to where we are today."
Armed groups in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel's South, Central, and Coastal Plains, with long-range rockets reaching Jerusalem and Tel Aviv continuing to put the lives of people in Gaza at risk from retributive strikes. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and several dozen have been injured.
Meanwhile, Israeli military strikes are exacerbating an already grim humanitarian situation for children and other civilians in Gaza. The prolonged blockade, high population density, weak infrastructure, poor health services, and scarcity of electricity and water that existed before this escalation have made the population of Gaza disproportionately vulnerable. The borders of the Gaza Strip are closed on all sides, making it difficult for citizens to flee the violence. It is a densely populated area that is only 139 square miles, roughly twice the size of the District of Columbia.
"Many World Vision donors and other Americans feel a moral and spiritual obligation to act on their concern for the lives of civilians and children in Israel and Palestine," says World Vision United States' Senior Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Dr. Mae Elise Cannon. "World Vision calls on people to pray and contact your government officials to show your support for a ceasefire accompanied by legitimate efforts towards a lasting and just peace."
- At least 789 Palestinians have been killed, including 578 civilians, of whom 185 are children and 93 are women.
- 5,118 Palestinians have been injured thus far, including 1,516 children and 1,012 women.
- Due to this displacement and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, approximately 1.2 million people have no or very limited access to water or sanitation services, and 80 percent of the population is receiving electricity for only 4 hours a day (U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA). Gaza's hospitals, medical clinics, water and sewage infrastructure, UNRWA schools, and civilian homes depend on this limited electricity.
- UNRWA schools, according to OCHA, are now a refuge for 149,000 people.
- According to OCHA, at least 148,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support after experiencing injury, the death of a family member, or the loss of their home.
All statistics are based on OCHA's Gaza Emergency Situation Report covering the period from 23 July to 24 July.
SOURCE World Vision U.S.